Indiana eyes tougher fire codes

In the aftermath of a fire that destroyed a luxury apartment building, state officials could bolster their fire codes.

By Source: Indianapolis Star March 17, 2009

According to an Indianapolis Star report , Indiana’s fire regulations are average compared to other states—but in the wake of a fire that consumed a luxury apartment project, officials are wondering if it isn’t time to get tougher.

While the cause of the blaze that destroyed the city’s Cosmopolitan on the Canal apartment project on March 12 is still under investigation, so while there is no determination as of yet whether stricter fire codes could have prevented or slowed the fire, officials are weighing the possibility.

In 2002, San Jose, Calif.’s city council adopted what are considered to be among the country’s most stringent fire safety rules for large construction projects after a huge fire destroyed a large shopping center under construction, taking 34 nearby apartments down with it. The new rules require developers of wood-frame structures larger than 350,000 sq ft to install fire-protection barriers during the course of a project. By contrast, Indiana contractors only have to install fire protection upon a project’s completion. Similarly, there are no specifics in Indiana on when drywall should be installed in projects; in San Jose, builders must hang drywall as soon as possible rather than leaving framing exposed.

Shelly Wakefield, Indiana’s director of fire and building code enforcement, said the state’s fire-safety standards are “pretty tough.” And city inspector Reggie Wade, who had visited the Cosmopolitan project more than two dozen times in the past 11 months, said the developers had taken a number of fire-safety precautions, including a two-hour fire wall between near-completed and remaining sections.